The title I use for the work I created over this period: Pre-Apocalyptic Punk, was an attempt at referencing the cynicism of a generation born to inherit climate collapse. While also referencing a youthful spirit of rebellious cultural production. The work I consider to be the beginning of this phase, is the above series of "adverts" I made using the printer at the school I started working in, in September 22. The job I started that year had an enormous impact on my work in this period. By putting me in spaces that ensured experiences and affordances that would otherwise have been absent from my life, the job gave me new material to work with, both physical and conceptual.
The concept that inspired these text pieces was the idea of responding to the adverts that adorn the London Underground. While many would consider these non-threatening or passive, the relationship between these impositions and the space they occupy to me represented the pervasiveness of capitalism. The appeals for commuters to invest their money with banks that prospect for new oil extraction sites; and spend money on non-recyclable, petrochemical, fast fast fashion, made by the disfranchised poor of the global south, inspired these responses. Responses that stripped back the equivocations and smiling faces and presented the true nature of the action of supporting consumption and capital accumulation. While some present the most egregious depictions of the impact of capitalism on the public. Such as: the Vestments of capitalism are the insides of your children. Others make more cryptic critiques. The poster Pray for Death, moves, once contemplated, from being a simple nihilistic wish for oblivion. To an understanding of the link between belief in christian fatalism and the environmental and social challenges we today face. Whereby, instead of the action of praying being affective in granting the wish for death, its very lack of efficacy makes the wasted action and misplaced belief, the precursor to a death through passivity.
I evoked religious language in these pieces and reference religious themes throughout this series. Doing so to compare the apocalypse embracing, faith based hierarchies of Christianity and Capitalism. Another ontological element of this period of work is the use of repetition. The pieces above were created using a laser jet printer. This low cost, uniform and infinitely produceable technique, I felt mimicked the production of capitalisms own propaganda. It also removed my physical association with the finished piece once again simulating the conditions under which "marketing" flourishes.
Another example of the use of Religious imagery within my Pre-Apocalyptic Punk period, can be found in this series of etchings focussed on the biblical characters "The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse". Contemplation of the apocalyptic consequences of climate change meant a fresh fixation on characters portending the annihilation of the left behind. The comparison is further accentuated when one considers the specific order of this macabre procession. The idea of the stages of the apocalypse, (first coming Pestilence, then War, then Famine and finally death) mirrors what I imagine will be a slow descent into the worst effects of climate orientated societal collapse. People rarely see the worst to come until it's too late to act against it. With this in mind this piece functions either as a warning or maybe just as a record of contemplation on the end of our own procession.
For the design of my own four horseman, I wanted costume and weaponry that while looking as if it was conjured by people contemporaneous to this dogmas conception, didn't divorce these actors from the modern context in which they will operate. For this reason war's horse is marked with the straight lines of the maps of colonialism. Famine adorns the hat of a 18th century merchant purveyors of the first capitalism resultant and therefore avoidable famines. Lastly while death carries a Scythe, upon his helmet is a sunrise that evokes the unrelenting heat of a planet smothered by its own carbon emissions. Instead of a sunsetting on humanity a white hot sun will rise to highlight every floor in the structures that lead us here.
The aesthetic associated with these kinds of meditations on the gothic, can be seen in the image above and to the right of this text. Once again a re-imagining of a literary character, this time the Iron Giant, Ted Hughes titular space alien that eats metal. The story of the Iron Giant, being first mistreated by the people of the south coast of England then saving humanity from a greater celestial threat, spoke to the experience of immigrants in Britain. Vilified for their differences, feared for their otherness, but called upon for their strength and endurance, their ability to shoulder the burdens that the privileged have become unable or unwilling to bare.
This series working over newspapers I started after I read an article in The Sunday Times about a drug rehabilitation centre. The articles bias was so stark and the composition of the page, with the article in under an "unrelated" image of soldiers on horseback, so aggressively moralising. Reading it compelled me to begin working over copies of other newspapers, particularly the METRO. I chose the METRO for two reasons: The first, is that the METRO being a free newspaper, distributed on TFL (transport for London) and Southern Rail services has a massive daily readership. However, more interesting than the numerousness of this readership is the passive nature of the interaction one has with this paper. Because readers haven't bought the paper, engagement with its politics becomes far less of a conscious activity. Through this level of disengagement, the METRO doesn't stand out as a politically affiliated newspaper like the Guardian or the Telegraph whose readers are marked by their choice in paper. Instead it functions as a Trojan horse implying through its ubiquitousness a consensus with general opinion. This Couldn't be further from the truth this highly read paper is in fact owned by Jonathon Harmsworth better know as Lord Rothermere who owns the Daily Mail widely considered to be the most right wing newspaper in the country. No wonder then that headlines in the newspapers I collected in this period heavily criticised strikes, promoted the virtue of tory politicians and underplayed climate change continually. For this newspapers series I wanted to avoid simply engaging with this object in the conventional manner. Instead of responding to the headline or the incendiary article beneath I tried to look at the relationship between the headlines and the images, between the adverts and the articles. For example in the central image above I looked at the papers use of purple. Conscious or not, the use of purple on the three disparate parts of this front page was fascinating. The colour, associated with royalty since ancient Rome, binds capitalism, in the form of the advert, the State, through the clothing of Liz Truss and the Monarchy in the colours use in the background of the Article on HS2 together. To further impress the synergy implied here I used a collaged image of a statue of the Emperor Augustus Cesar adding the purple striped by time from his marble robe. His positioning on the page making overt the nature of the relationship between the state, who it serves and who profits from it.
Black Histories, was a series that I completed while terming my work as Pre-Apocalyptic Punk. While not pertaining to a contemporary issue as directly as previous pieces, (the text works being the most overt example). These pieces show the origins of and the alternatives to the hegemonic death cult that is capitalism. Made from photocopied pages from a children's colouring book, bought for me when I was a child. The pages show "Famous Native Americans", the choice to colour these tableaus entirely black was an attempt at centring the devastation that was, and is still being committed against indigenous peoples around the world. The recognition of these events is the first step in educating people about the necessary foundations of our capitalist society. The work also attempts to show through a focus on particular figures and moments, a strain of sustained resistance. An alternative to the hegemony of capitalism. The Climate catastrophe that our global community is now facing is the direct result of capitalism. It is therefore imperative that we draw inspiration from societies that evolved beyond these Monotheistic inherited ideas of reduction and perceived ownership of the earth and its contents. We must lose the greed, hierarchy and division of our societies and the economic systems that bolster their continuity. Instead we must take notice of the Water protectors, the sustainable hunters and fishers and in general societies whose spiritual and social systems privilege, community, equality and understanding. Unfortunately the cynicism of these works is imbued their materiality. The very reality of a children's colouring book that's subject is genocide, shows the way in which capitalism can profiteer off of its own crimes in perpetuity. Does this work therefore not clad itself in black to mourn the past but to mourn the present?